Nutrition and rest are key when recovering from any injury. From a muscle strain to a concussion – providing your body with the optimal environment for healing is essential. When injured, your body becomes unbalanced, and requires more energy to heal. By being mindful of good nutrition and rest, you give your body the best chance for full recovery. The nutrients you need to recover, called macronutrients, are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Remember, the best and easiest way to get these nutrients into your body is by eating whole foods instead of processed or fast foods.
Protein helps with muscle growth and prevents muscle breakdown. Healthy lean proteins include fish, white meat chicken and turkey, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs and lentils.
Studies have shown that healthy fats like those found in nuts, salmon, and avocados, help reduce inflammation in the body. They also improve mental function, protect heart health, and provide long-term energy. Great sources of healthy fats also happen to be delicious foods! Healthy fats can also be found in cooking oils such as olive and sunflower, and seeds like flax and chia.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for the body, and they are essential to giving the body the energy it needs to heal. Healing carbohydrates are the “complex carbohydrates” found in whole wheat breads and pastas, brown rice, quinoa, and lentils.
As you can tell from the lists of healthy macronutrients, some of these foods are the source of two or more macronutrients. This makes it easier to get more healing from the foods you are eating. By eating healthy sources of these three macronutrients, you help your body fight off the inflammation associated with injury, improve the body’s ability to heal injured muscle tissue, and give those injured tissues the energy they need to recover.
However, in addition to diet, plenty of sleep is vital to healing. Your body does the majority of its healing while asleep. Therefore, it is essential to get the best quality sleep you can when recovering from injury. While the required number of hours of sleep depends somewhat on the individual, experts recommend getting at least eight hours of sleep each night. So, when recovering from injury, don’t short yourself on sleep!
In summary, by providing your body with healthy foods and getting enough sleep, you can keep your body balanced as you heal from injury and fully support the body’s recovery process.
Written by: Tessa Cashman, ATC, athletic trainer for The Center Foundation and Bend Senior High School in Bend, Oregon. Learn more about Tessa HERE.
The Center Foundation places dedicated athletic trainers in local high schools to provide sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. Learn more about our work HERE.